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Hiroshima’s Best-Kept Secret

Is Onomichi worth visiting? The short answer is yes—of course it is. Strewn over a hillside above a harbor overlooking Japan’s inland sea, it’s doubtlessly one of the country’s most beautiful cities.

At the same time, you generally have to be in Hiroshima (or, at minimum, Okayama) in order to visit Onomichi, which is almost always a day-trip destination. As a result, many travelers to Japan miss Onomichi entirely.

I’m going to assume, because you Googled this topic, that you are at least persuadable about exploring Japan’s southwestern Setouchi region. My hope, by the end of this post, is that you’re totally sold on coming to Onomichi!

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Why Japanese Travelers Visit Onomichi

It’s not hard to see what makes Onomichi worth visiting, regardless of your nationality. The views of the Seto Inland Sea alone are worth the time spent on the train, and the hike necessary to reach the viewpoint. However, Japanese tourists have their own reasons for coming. For example, many people in search of all things y love the fact that Onomichi is home to so many cats.

Japanese nerds, meanwhile, love coming to Onomichi because is the setting of the Yakuza 6 installment of the Yakuza video game series. Interestingly, unlike a lot of fictitious settings that draw on elements of real places but synthesize others, the actual Onomichi is pretty similar to what you find in the game, at least physically. Thankfully, you won’t find any gangstera here!

Things to Do in Onomichi

Take in the view from Senko-ji

 

For my money, Senko-ji temple offers the best view anywhere in Hiroshima prefecture. Which is good, because getting up there is quite a trek, even though the trail thankfully begins right outside the “back” exit of JR Onomichi Station. While you can also ride a cable car to reach the top, it’s more rewarding (in my opinion) to go on foot.

Walk the Old Temple Trail

 

Another of the main reasons I so passionately believe that Onomichi is worth visiting? The aptly-named Old Temple trail, which leads to and away from Senko-ji (and some other places—hold on just a second). If the temples themselves aren’t enough of an attraction for you, make sure to take in the outstanding panorama of the harbor as you’re walking along the ridge.

(Ideally, all the way to Saikoku-ji)

 

Saikoku-ji sits high atop a hill just north and west of JR Onomichi Station, at the far end of the Old Temple Trail. While it’s tempting not to walk all the way here, particularly if you end up feeling satisfied with what you see en route away from Senko-ji, I encourage you to go the extra mile. This is an especially good idea if you manage to make it here when local monks are tending to the temple grounds.

Take care of stray cats

 

As I mentioned earlier in this post, a big reason so many Japanese tourists feel that Onomichi is worth visiting is the many stray cats that live here. Well, I say “many,” but they’ve never seemed excessive in number to me. In fact, there have been times I’ve visited Onomichi and not seen a single cat. My advice? Be happy if you see some, but don’t make doing so the focus of your trip.

Eat Onomichi ramen

 

Now, I’ll be frank: Ramen is not my favorite Japanese food; I actually consider it overrated on the whole. Still, after a long day traipsing up and down the hillsides of Onomichi, the steaming hot soy sauce broth of the city’s very own ramen hits the spot in a way that I’m not sure anything else could do. For the best bowl, visit Ichibankan, whose queue is absolutely worth waiting in.

The Shimanami Kaido

Another main attractions of Onomichi, for foreign and Japanese tourists alike, is the fact that it’s one of Japan’s premier biking destinations. Namely, the Shimanami Kaido trail leads from Onomichi to Shimabari, a city on the island off Shikoku just across the Seto Inland Sea. This route, which stretches about 70 km, is accessible all year and is appropriate for all cyclists, from novices to pros.

Notably, the Shimanami Kaido may be what makes you decide that Onomichi is worth visiting overnight and not just on a day trip. With this being said, you can bike it on a (long) day trip from Hiroshima, assuming you take an early train and are prepared to take a late train back in the evening. This may or may not be practical, given how wiped out you’ll be after a long day of biking!

Other FAQ About Visiting Onomichi

Is Onomichi a real place?

If you’ve ever played the video game “Yakuza 6,” you may be under the impression that Onomichi is not a real place. However, it is a very real place! In fact, the “real” Onomichi is almost identical to the one in the video game—it just doesn’t have the gangsters!

What is Onomichi known for?

Onomichi is known for the stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea it offers, as well as the fact that it’s home to dozens of temples and countless cute cats. Moreover, Onomichi-style ramen is famous, at least among Japanese travelers.

How do you get to Onomichi?

Onomichi is easily accessible from many major cities in Japan (namely, Hiroshima) but is not directly on the Shinkansen line. While you can take a Shinkansen Kodama to Shin-Onomichi station (which is far outside of town), the easier way is to ride a Shinkansen Sakura or Nozomi to Fukuyama, then ride the JR Sanyo Line to Onomichi station, which is right in the city center.

The Bottom Line

Is Onomichi worth visiting? Yes, assuming you’re going to be in the general vicinity. Unless you plan to stay the night (which, I’ll be honest, is not something even I have ever felt compelled to do), you will need to have a base in Hiroshima or Okayama in order to make a day trip to Onomichi worthwhile. As far as what to do once you get there? I usually like exiting the station the “back way” and walking up to Senko-ji for a panorama, before following the Old Temple Trail and ending waterside for ramen. But your mileage may vary. Make sure your entire trip is fined-tuned just as you like it when you hire me to plan a custom Japan itinerary.

 

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